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The making of a master carver

NO ONE visits Paete without being awed by the artistry and industry of its people. Even Jose Rizal’s Noli Mi Tangere mentioned the town’s woodcarving shops and the masterpieces created in these.

“Maraming malalandi ang kamay rito dahil maliit ang espasyo ng aming bayan (Our town is so small people have learned how to be creative with their hands),” says woodcarver Justino ‘Paloy’ Cagayat Jr. says, explaining why he and his townmates are artistically inclined.

How not to carve a future

PAETE, Laguna — Woodcarver Justino ‘Paloy’ Cagayat Jr. still remembers a time when the kabaret (honky-tonk joint) directly across his shop had some 200 “entertainers.” At that time, too, he recalls, numerous fires hit many carving shops because workers were just too busy to sweep wood shavings off floors and have proper cigarette breaks. To Cagayat, this town’s then new, racy form of entertainment and the fires were indicators of Paete’s wealth — and of the insatiable demand for its products.